Chicago emo indie rock band Owls are to release their second album entitled Two out this month on Polyvinyl. Composed of the original lineup of experimental indie band Cap’n Jazz, minus guitarist Davey von Bohlen, the band reformed in 2012 after a ten year hiatus. Now the members include brothers Tim Kinsella and Mike Kinsella (on vocals and drums), along with guitarist Victor Villarreal and bassist Sam Zurick.
Opener “Four Works of Art” a title perhaps reflected in the four images on the front of the album, opens with a steady guitar melody, which stops before vocals blast in “I know, I know” repeats. “I’m Surprised” is teeming with lo-fi guitar and humorous anecdotes; “I carry chocolate with me everywhere, I sing like a crooked seahorse, I float like a cello.”
“The Lion” is anecdotal too; Kinsella’s vocals add to the almost cutesy storytelling vibe juxtaposed against the lyrical content “I’ve watched hornets slaughter honey bees”. In fact, Owls sound is still rather gentle, but with a passionate feel sat aside a DIY sound. “This Must Be How” is the epitome of this; a calm melody and drums sits under tender lyrics and charming off-key vocals, which move in and out of emotion.
The twangy guitars jump about throughout “It Collects Itself” before more interesting, introspective lyrics “they always keep their loud TVs on” and “put the pillow on the window-sill, and I’ll hold him still, the circle we’re drawing here, will never become a real deal”. The longest song on the album, instrumentals break up the lyrics along with plenty of oohs and ahs.
“I’ll Never Be” also breaks down for choppy, moody instrumentals before “Oh No, Don’t” deepens the mood again and stops and starts in a panicky motion, Kinsella sings “Oh no, don’t smash the telephone, oh no don’t smash the loaf of bread, oh no, don’t smash the plastic plants, oh no, don’t smash the bag of pretzels” and asks “haven’t you been happy yet?”
Closing track “A Drop of Blood” has a rich guitar-filled intro and is a strong finish for Two. “Perfect perfection” chants behind the melody, perhaps a dig at the super polished manufactured pop sounds of the generation, which Owls certainly aren’t. With a reflective, exciting emo indie sound, it’s a welcome comeback for the band.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.